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Santa Dale touched many lives in WorthingtonPosted Wednesday, December 23, 2009, at 3:15 PM
Thanks to all of you who gave me a compliment after reading my column last week. I didn't expect those but it's made me feel good about my work in these days leading up to Christmas.
That column came about as I was considering what Christmasie subject I would write about this week. I decided upon a story to thank one of the most unforgettable characters I have ever met, who had given me one of the most unusual compliments I ever got.
I had just written a story about a person who had passed away and it came out pretty good. A few days later I was at an event when a dapper gentleman "dressed to the nines" walked up and said, "Say, I'd like to ask a favor from you. When I pass away, I want you to write my obituary. Would you do that for me?"
Now this might seem a little odd, but I took it as a compliment and really didn't think about it being all that odd at the time, considering the source.
The source is one of the most imaginative, outgoing and upbeat individuals in Indiana. He's never at a loss for words and it's always a treat to run into him because he leaves every person he meets with a smile.
His request made me think that I should step up my efforts to write more stories about people, while they're still around.
I would be honored to write an obituary for this man, but with his energy and zest for life, I wouldn't be surprised if he outlives me even though I'm younger than him. Plus, I think I'd like to express my respect and appreciation for him now while he's here to hear it.
His name is Dale Hannum and colorful stories abound throughout the year. But at Christmas time, when people get nostalgic and think back over past Christmas memories, a very large number of people see a vision of Dale walking through their memory.
As the story goes, the Santa, who was supposed to hand out treats to children at a church, canceled out at the last minute, and the lady organizing the event didn't know what to do. So she grabbed Santa's suit and ran across the street to her neighbor Dale's house and told him to put the suit on and get to the church fast. And he did.
Now I'm not sure exactly how that experience affected Dale, but he transformed himself into a Santa for many, many years after that.
But the storebought suit just wouldn't do -- this work was far too important for fakery. Dale ordered a velvet suit decked out with real fur. And a special black belt from some faraway place ... I think Santa's boots came from Spain. Nothing but the best for Worthington's Santa. And then he expanded Santa's operations.
On Christmas Eve, year after year, many children would hear bells jingling outside the door and everyone in the family would run to see what was going on.
When the door was opened, in came Santa Dale, jingling all the way. He'd greet the children by name, sit down and make himself at home, and talk to them like he knew everything about them, because he did. He ate lots of cookies on Christmas Eve.
Santa's visits were loud and happy, full of life and quick because he had so many rounds to make.
I'm not sure how he pulled it all off, but children around town never seemed to figure out it was Dale.
Dale's Santa was quite something and The Indianapolis Star once came down and wrote an article about him in its Sunday magazine.
Having now reached an age of great wit and wisdom, Dale has retired from the Santa-life. He lives alone, and I want to let him know the years of memories he created for so many families are not forgotten.
Dale, at some point during this Christmas-time, hundreds of now-adults, who were children once upon a time, will be thinking back and remembering the magic of that moment when they heard those bells outside their door.
Thank you, Dale. And Merry Christmas!
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